By Carolyne

When I was growing up, as many of my generation will likely remember, there was a lot of béchamel sauce used in recipes, but I don’t remember hearing it called that. It’s just a fancy French name for white sauce, made with equal parts flour and butter and a liquid, often milk but it could be cream. (Today the butter could be replaced by several options: duck fat, bacon fat, even goose fat.) Depends on what you will do with the sauce.

Into the sauce was added a tin or two of drained sweet peas, or a tin of drained mushrooms or any of several other fillers.

This was served as a light supper or even a brunch by preparing regular ordinary buttered toast and pouring a half cup of the béchamel mix over the toast. Eat using a knife and fork. Maybe have a spoon handy so as not to miss any of the sauce.

I rarely make béchamel, or any sauce using flour, preferring to make a thickened cream sauce, reducing it to thicken, no flour.

I sautéed three fresh, never frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. You could use any chicken: thighs, legs. I didn’t marinate the chicken although you could.

I just smeared one side of each chicken piece with my refrigerated, homemade oven-roasted golden garlic purée, a butter knife swipe of Dijon, salt, pepper, sweet paprika, thyme, nutmeg, and a drizzle of Mazola Corn Oil. Only one side.

I often use this mix, sometimes as a marinade, other times just when ready to sauté in sizzling unsalted butter. So simple. And delicious no matter which way you serve it.

Only caveat: Do not overcook the chicken. The chicken typically cooks in about three minutes each side. Remove from heat, cover at a tilt to let steam escape and let the chicken rest before slicing thinly, on the diagonal.

I ate one breast with vegetables and salad. I refrigerated, covered airtight in a glass container, the other two breasts, thinking maybe to make chicken salad or my chicken pâté for quesadillas in the next day or two.

The next day, a thought hit me. There was lots of au naturel jus and deglazing liquid in the leftovers chicken dish in the fridge. I reheated the jus and added a cup and a half of half and half cream.

Let the cream, jus-mix come to a full boil, turned down the heat and reduced by half. Sprinkled the sauce with matching salt, pepper, sweet red paprika, a pinch of thyme and a little nutmeg, and a quarter cup of LiteHouse Brand freeze-dried fresh parsley.

See where this is going? I sliced the leftover cooked chicken breasts quite thin, on the diagonal. And tossed the juicy chicken pieces into the hot cream sauce along with the residual jus. But wait.

Why, I have no idea, but I found a tin of baby spring green peas on a pantry shelf. Green Giant to be precise. No idea how it got there.

I’m not a big fan of peas to begin with. Ideally I would have blanched fresh peas in the pod. But I drained the peas and added them to the chicken in the cream sauce, just to heat through. Of course, the peas are already cooked.

And, yes, I buttered two slices of plain ordinary toast. Topped with the chicken and peas in cream sauce, it was a delightful, actually very tasty, trip down memory lane.

Who would have thought such a simple yet slightly differently prepared mix would be worth reinventing? Or even sharing. There might be those among our readers who never heard of the wartime food. It might be years before I eat tinned peas again, but, seriously, it was a delicious surprise.

ALTERNATE: I’m thinking maybe use leftover chunks of fresh, sautéed or roasted salmon steak, instead of the chicken, or even lobster pieces? Again with the peas? Any takers?

You could always replace the peas with thin asparagus spears, sautéed in sizzling unsalted butter, chopped. The asparagus cooks in just minutes.

And to any mix, you could always sauté thin strips of multi-coloured bell peppers and onion for another extra special simple plate. In barbecue season, grill the pepper mix in one of the pan containers with punched holes. Perhaps marinate the peppers first.

Why stop there? Add a couple of marinated Canadian cream cheese coins from your log marinating jar.

MAYBE: Stir into the cream sauce a teaspoon or so of thick tomato paste. Not tomato sauce. Add sautéed medium-size shrimp, cooked in their shells, to the chicken sauce mix. Crumble a little fresh dried tarragon over top. Stir in a tablespoon of Pernod or even green Chartreuse, and just when you think the dish is finished, add a few knobs of very cold unsalted butter to the very hot sauce, and just swirl the pan a little as the butter melts into a shiny finish.

You could serve on micro-minute buttered basmati rice, on your favourite noodles (I like homemade egg noodles personally, with this sauce), or even on my special whipped mashed potatoes. Any combination of these leftovers is a great addition to generous 2×2-inch cubes of homemade chicken stock polenta.

I discovered the leftover chicken in cream sauce works beautifully using instead a thin, barely cooked (pan-fried) pork chop. Very yum.

As we used to say, making something out of nothing takes no time at all.

© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. The cookbook will be available in the coming year. Email Carolyne.


  1. In Canada, during the war, food was rationed. Certainly many young people don’t know to what I refer when I make reference statements in the gourmet cooking columns such as in this recipe.

    Here is a link to a little information that many Canadians don’t even know about, and perhaps certainly the immigrants often don’t know the history. They only know Canada as a land of plenty.

    Readers might find this interesting and it only touches on the topic; you can google “food rationing in Canada during the war.” Being a war baby, even as young as four years old, I remember how important it was to take good care of the ration-coupons.

    We’re not talking about food banks and welfare people. This system treated everyone equally. Well, sort of. There were always people who “knew how to work the system.)

    (You might have to copy and paste in order to activate the link in your browser.)

    Although the hardships were nothing like those overseas, the time taught people the value of the meaning of “not to waste.” Sadly so much good foodstuffs go to waste now.

    Carolyne L 🍁

    • Continued … Rationing Food

      I just happened to trip over this information on Google while doing a bit of Canadian food research. I did not write this material.

      Although this article is directed at educating kids, as the interior link notes, I thought there might be some adults who are not aware of this Canadian history, and that maybe in particular new immigrants to Canada might not be aware of War-days, relative to food consumption in our country, their new country.

      So, I decided to post this as an educational opportunity to share. You might want to share this information with your friends, relatives from back home, and maybe even with colleagues at the office.

      Many new immigrants become REALTORS® and this topic might be an interesting one to include in your real estate newsletters. Our farming and food producing methods have changed dramatically over the years (since the War), as has our now badly broken Healthcare system, and our broken down infrastructure. I am completely apolitical so that is not a political criticism, just stating the facts. It has nothing to do with who is in power politically.

      Ages ago I made reference to a book titled: “Last Chance to Eat,” written by Canadian newspaper journalist, Gina Mallet, that addresses foodstuffs that have disappeared from our food supply system (since the end of the War). Many more since that book was written years ago. A worthwhile read if you can acquire a copy.

      On 8 January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. This was followed by successive ration schemes for meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit. Fresh vegetables and fruit were not rationed but supplies were limited.

      Food rationing was a way to share food that became hard to get during the war in a fair and equal way. During the 1940s, everyone had ration cards with stamps inside that they could exchange for food at certain stores. And there was no cheating allowed! Families had to specify which stores they would shop at and if they tried to go somewhere else, they could be fined or sent to jail.

      Food was being sent overseas to help feed the soldiers who were stationed there. That meant there were shortages of certain foods, such as butter, back in Canada and they had to be rationed so that each person received a fixed amount every week.

      Sugar was the first basic food to be rationed in Canada back in January of 1942 — which must have made it very hard to do a lot if baking. Sugar was followed by coffee and tea a couple of months later and then butter by the end of the year. The following year, they started to ration meat.
      One cup — about 200 grams — of sugar was given to each adult per week. That may sound like a lot, but we eat at about half of that, or about 100 grams, every day now. They could also get two ounces of tea (about 24 tea bags) and only four ounces (about 1 stick) of butter.

      Just because you had a ration card, that didn’t mean that the ingredients you wanted would be available in the grocery store. Cooks during the war had to be very creative with their meals and everything was made from scratch — there were no packaged or fast food available!

      Did you know? [note that Canada’s Food Rules have just been subjected to a major change: 2019]

      • Back in 1941, a quarter of Canadians kept their food cold in an icebox — a small cupboard where foods were kept cold using a big block of ice.
      • All the best cuts of meat were being sent to the soldiers overseas while Canadians back home were eating organ meat — tripe, kidney, tongue and liver.
      • Leftovers were not thrown away! Families donated dinner bones and fat to be made into other materials for the war effort.

      To help people stay healthy while rationing food, the government put together Canada’s Official Food Rules, that told people how much of each of the six food groups — milk, cereals and bread, meat, fruits and vegetables, fish and eggs — they should eat every day. You know it today as the Canada Food Guide.

      Although the info is found on google at the link, I have expanded the link.

      The end of the war saw additional cuts. Bread, which was never rationed during wartime, was put on
      the ration in July 1946. It was not until the early 1950s that most commodities came ‘off the ration’. Meat was the last item to be de-rationed and food rationing ended completely in 1954.

      I was already twelve years old by then, so I have vivid memories of the time. Large supermarkets appeared in old commercial structures, and some new-builds appeared. Tin cans of foodstuffs began to appear on these then described ultra-modern store shelves, not seen before, and foreign to the downtown markets.

      I recall being introduced to “canned/tinned” liverwurst (and I loved it on lunchbox sandwiches. The tins were about the size of today’s tiny cat food cans and quite expensive so used sparingly. A product called Cheese Whiz suddenly appeared on grocery store shelves. Closely followed by “Velveeta.”
      This “cheese” was used to make original Cheese Dreams recipes. See my modern version at:

      “Wonder Bread” was suddenly everywhere. (Pre-sliced packaged loaves of white bread was a novelty.)

      Although nearly every fruit and vegetable could now be bought in tins, for fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and meat, shoppers were reluctant to give up going to the market. With a reed or wicker shopping basket over arm. Gradually brown paper shopping bags appeared with woven string (likely hemp) handles. No plastics yet.

      What is now mostly packaged in plastic was in glass bottle containers. Heavy to carry. Milk was still delivered house to house in thick glass bottles (with a stiff cardboard pop-off topper) by the “milk man,” and huge chunks of ice were delivered by the ice man for the icebox, a wagon sometimes still drawn by a horse in the 1950s. He handled the large ice blocks using giant tongs, delivering them right to the household icebox.

      It was a celebration day when the first refrigerator arrived. But there wasn’t the usual large place in it for ice blocks from which the homeowner chopped off chunks as needed. Nothing went to waste. But homeowners then had to rely on “ice cube trays.”

      Carolyne L
      compliments of:
      © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
      Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

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